Over 200 sacred Native American artifacts, held by private collectors and later the Smithsonian Institution and other museums, have been returned to the Yurok people of Northern California. According to Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle, it is one of the largest repatriations of ceremonial artifacts in U.S. History.
The necklaces, headdresses, arrows, hides and other regalia from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian are believed to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. The Yurok have lived along the Klamath River in far northern California for over 10,000 years. The sacred cache is part of an ongoing effort around the country to return Native American burial artifacts, ceremonial items and remains taken by white settlers from Indian villages and indigenous sites.
The 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act transferred stewardship of more than 800,000 Indian artifacts to the Smithsonian and required the institute to consider repatriating them to federally recognized tribes. A tribal leader sent to accompany the items back home from Washington D.C. said the return of the items will help the Yurok preserve their language, culture and religion for generations to come. Why it has taken 21 years for the Smithsonian to consider the return of the items is unclear. Hopefully the wait for other tribes will be much shorter.